By David Rogers. September 27, 2019. BOONE, NC — Dale Carnegie, the influential American writer and lecturer in the early 1900s, would have been proud of Watauga’s football team Friday night in their dominant, 56-12 win over South Caldwell in the schools’ 2019 Northwestern Confererence league opener at Jack Groce Stadium.
COVER IMAGE: Watauga senior wingback Jaiden Bond hurdles a South Caldwell defender en route to a big gain along the sideline. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Everybody makes mistakes from time to time, the great sales, leadership and self-improvement coach liked to point out in the early 20th century. One of the ways Carnegie encouraged his students to deal with those mistakes is to “brush them off” — don’t spend a lot of time worrying about them, focus on the task at hand, and move forward.
After coughing up a fumble in the red zone and return for an early Spartan TD, Watauga shook off the mistake and never looked back. The Pioneers’ senior wingback Grant Oliver returned the ensuing South Caldwell kickoff 22 yards and three plays later carried the ball again for 36 yards to the Spartan 15-yard line. That set up a Jaiden Bond 15-yard run for the tying TD, and the Carter Everett PAT kick put the Pioneers in front, 7-6 — all with less than five minutes gone from the clock the Pioneers were in a new ball game.
After the Pioneer defense stopped South Caldwell short of midfield in their next possession and the Spartans were forced to punt the ball away, it only took three plays for Watauga to find the end zone again. It turned out to be Bond again at the tip of the offensive spear, rambling 84 yards for the TD, breaking tackles and sidestepping others. Another Everett Kick made it 14-6 and the rout was on, with still 1:25 left in the first quarter.
Keys to the Game
- Watauga’s ability to capitalize on South Caldwell turnovers
- Watauga’s dominance in total offense, rolling up 510 yards while holding South Caldwell to just 153
- WAT’s QB Anderson Castle displaying a diverse skill set, with 119 yards rushing and 105 yards passing, accounting for 3 TDs
- WAT’s Jaiden Bond’s stellar play in all three phases, including 168 yards rushing and 3 TDs, an INT on defense along with key stops, and a 58-yard kickoff return
- Dominance at the line of scrimmage by the Watauga offensive line
- Dominance at the line of scrimmage by the Watauga defensive front seven
Watauga exploded for another 28 points in the second quarter while capitalizing on Spartan turnovers. First SC quarterback Avery Raynor’s pass was intercepted by Watauga’s Bond at the SC 28 yard line, with 10 seconds remaining in the opening quarter. Pioneer As the clock ticked down to finish the period, QB Anderson Castle ran off-tackle for 13 yards to the Spartan 15. Then, after switching ends of the field during the quarter break, Castle picked up right where he left off, scooting through a big gap created by his offensive line for the 15-yard TD. It was just the first play of the second quarter and the Pioneers led, 21-6.
Unfortunately for the visitors from Hudson, NC, their mistakes continued. On the kickoff, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the Spartans back to start the opportunity to respond from their own 11-yard line. On the very first play from scrimmage, running back Isaiah Kirby fumbled at the line of scrimmage and it was pounced on by the Pioneers’ freshman defensive lineman, Isaiah Shirley.
Given good field position at the South Caldwell 12-yard line, Castle & Co. knew what to do with. It may well have been the toughest 12 yards of the night for the Pioneers, but a couple of runs by Castle and Bond later, Watauga put the ball into the hands of versatile B-back, Jake Watson. First, he punched two yards for the first down, then he bulldozed through the South Caldwell defense for a touchdown.
Leading 28-6 and the first half not nearly done, Watauga was in control. The Spartans were going the way of their namesake. In 371 B.C., Sparta of Ancient Greece was known as a military power, but their dominance was short-lived when defeated by Thebes at the Battle of Leuctra.
South Caldwell’s football Spartans on Friday night were becoming unraveled at this point. Watauga’s defense held the Raynor-led SC offense to a three-and-out. Then it took only six plays for the Pioneer offense to stampede 70 yards for another score. The drive highlighted Castle & Co.’s diverse abilities in this Habich-designed offense, the first two plays of the series perfectly thrown Castle passes to senior wide receiver Grant Oliver for 30- and 23-yard gains, Oliver making the catches in traffic. Castle finished off the TD-scoring possession four plays later and with yet another Everett PAT, the Pioneer advantage expanded to 35-6.
Very much to their credit, the South Caldwell eleven tried to rally with an 8-play, 58-yard march that was error free, to paydirt, aided by a defensive pass interference penalty. Raynor opened the drive with crisp passes to senior wide receiver Gray Felts and the QB’s senior brother, Austin Raynor. He then took advantage of the 15-yard interference penalty with another crisp pass in traffic to junior WR Tristin Adkins for 19 yards before running the ball the remaining four yards for the Spartans’ second — and last — TD of the evening.
Watauga, of course, was not without a response. Bond returned the kickoff 58 yards to the South Caldwell 30-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Castle found junior wingback Sebastian Best on a post pattern. The speedy Best simply outran the SC defensive back and Castle led him perfectly as Best collected the ball in his arms crossing the goal line.
The score at intermission was 42-12. Even with Habich emptying the Watauga bench and playing a lot of reserves on both sides of the ball, the Pioneers managed two more scores, an 11-yard run by Bon in the third quarter and a 25-yard power rush by Watson in the fourth. Watson’s tally made the score 56-12 with 11:49 remaining in the game. The North Carolina high school “mercy rule” went into effect where the game clock runs continuously. With a little under three minutes remaining, Watauga drove to the SC 17-yard line, largely on impressive runs featuring Best, then went into victory formation, downing the ball on each snap to run out the clock.
Afterward, Habich told reporters that his thoughts were with Bryce Satterfield, whose senior season was abruptly ended two weeks ago when he suffered a knee injury in the win over Wilkes Central. Satterfield underwent surgery this week and Habich extended his best wishes for a speedy recovery, perhaps in time for the track season in the spring.
Habich added that he was happy to start what he describes as the “third season” within the season, 1-0 (the first season is the work the players do during the summer to prepare, both in the weight room and in on-field conditioning; the second season is comprised of the non-conference games; and the third season is conference play, which potentially leads to the state playoffs). He said that going into next week’s tilt against Alexander Central would be a real test of where they are as a football team. While going into that hostile environment with momentum against a strong, highly ranked Cougars team was important but reminded reporters that by virtue of the scheduling (with West Caldwell dropping football), every Northwestern Conference opponent has a bye the week before they play the Pioneers. With Alexander Central having two weeks to prepare for Watauga’s invasion, Habich expects that they will be well-prepared.
“They know what we do and we know a little bit about what they do,” Habich stated in his radio interview with WATA’s Mike Kelly, “so it comes down to execution.”
Watauga’s road game to Taylorsville next week to play Alexander Central is slated for a 7:30 pm kickoff.
Blowing Rock Newshound Players of the Game
- Jaiden Bond (8 carries, 168 yards rushing, 3 TDs)
- Anderson Castle (12 carries, 119 yards rushing, 2 TDs; 6-of-8 passing for 105 yards, 1 TD
- Orlando Leon (4 tackles, shared sack, 2 tackles for loss)
- SPECIAL TEAMS: Jaiden Bond (58-yard kickoff return)
SELECTED TEAM STATS
- Total Offense — WAT 510. SC 153
- Passing Net Yards — WAT 105, SC 136
- Rushing Net Yards — WAT 405, SC 17
- Penalties — WAT 6-65, SC 5-40
- Fumbles-Lost — WAT 1-1, SC 4-3
- Interceptions Thrown — WAT 0, SC 2
- Defensive Sacks — WAT 1, SC 0
- Time of Possession — WAT 25:14, SC 22:27
- Third Down Conversions — WAT 5/6 (83%), SC 5/9 (57%)
- Fourth Down Conversions — WAT 0/2 (0.0%), SC 0/0 (0.0%)
SELECTED INDIVIDUAL STATS
- SC — Avery Raynor 15-26-136-0-2
- WAT — Anderson Castle 6-8-105-1-0
- WAT — Grant Oliver: 5 catches, 75 yards
- SC — Gray Felts: 4 catches, 51 yards
- SC — Isaiah Kirby: 6 catches, 51 yards
- WAT — Sebastian Best: 1 catch, 30 yards, 1 TD
- SC — Tristin Adkins: 1 catch, 19 yards
- WAT — Jaiden Bond, 8 rushes, 168 yards, 3 TDs
- WAT — Anderson Castle, 12 rushes, 119 yards, 2 TDs
- WAT — Sebastian Best, 4 rushes, 52 yards
- WAT — Grant Oliver, 1 rush, 36 yards
- WAT — Jake Watson, 7 rushes, 34 yards, 2 TDs
- SC — Avery Raynor, 10 rushes, 12 yards, 1 TD